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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion: Aug 2017 - Composites: Art, Photo or Heresy? "Journey Into Night" by Jerry Uelsmann

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Re: Monthly Masters' Discussion - Composites: Art, Photo or Heresy? "Journey Into Night" by Jerry Uelsmann

Post by Duck » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:22 pm

[heading]On the topic of disclosure[/heading]
Like everything else in the art world there are multiple schools of thought on this. Some feel that art is to be interpreted by the viewer and any input from the author takes away from the viewing experience because it imposes the author's perspective that may or may not be shared by the viewer. Other welcome that explanation as they feel it brings them closer to the artist by being allowed into the creative process, however vicarious that inclusion truly is.

In fine art, I don't think disclosure is relevant. The goal is to bring the viewer to a certain emotional level or comprehension on a theme or subject. Art is a visual language filled with symbolism and often it is exaggerated or manipulated to extremes in order for the message to be clear. Other times the message is subtle and relies on the intellect of the viewer to truly read the image. This is, to me, the root of why visual art (and aural or written art) can be so subjective. Different levels of understanding will interpret an image in different ways. One person may see a surreal image of hands growing like a tree holding a nest, someone else will see the circle of life represented as Mother Earth cradling new life as it continues forth, breaking through the blockade of modernization. The ancient tree roots representing 'crone', the hands representing 'mother' and the egg representing 'daughter'; all lunar symbols for the circle of life. The moon echoed in the round nest under an inky black sky.

Or it could be a cool set of hands melded with a tree holding a nest.
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Post by PietFrancke » Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:53 pm

I think you have nailed the issue nicely here. As you say ART is essentially a visual language that is filled with symbolism. A story is visually and symbolically being told. But because of the mechanics/nature of photography (a machine capturing light and the machine rendering an image) the assumption is made that a certain reality is being expressed.

Along these lines, in art (say painting), often the image is but an abstraction of the subject (like a stick figure). Anyway... while some painters strive for photorealism, mostly we can recognize a painting for what it is.

Digital photo manipulation is a new game that can produce photo-realistic paintings that are NOT easily recognized as paintings (something rendered by a human instead of by a machine). I recognize that photographs can tell lies with the use of sneaky compositions and staging, but with photographs the running assumption is a machine captured light and rendered reality the best that it could - it is real. A painting done by a human on the other hand is a depiction of "whatever". Things are left out, things are added, we are awarded artistic license - even pure imagination can be the source/inspiration. In painting, the result is an abstraction (instead of a depiction) of reality.

As the ability to manipulate images becomes more powerful, our ability to recognize a digital photograph as something that depicts reality fades. We say that an image stands by itself. That just can no longer be true. Ethics comes into play when the image depicted is presented as being real and it is not. Just displaying the image is not sufficient to that end, it has to be the accompanying content - "look what I found, this shows how terrible he is"...

We talk about fake news, fake images, fake whatever... while the topic might present itself as being new, lies are not new.

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Post by PietFrancke » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:05 pm

and of course, no matter what, there are always lines that should not be crossed. The message being sent... is acceptable or it is not. For example, a year 1500 painting of Judas rising to heaven would not have been acceptable. So anyway, I am just pointing out that the key aspect is not necessarily depiction of reality vs fantasy, but rather What is being said that determines if something is acceptable or not.

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Post by minniev » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:02 am

On Disclosure:

I have never had any particular concerns about how another photographer/artist constructed their images. If I like it, I like it, and if I don't, I don't. I can even appreciate many images that I don't like. But how they were put together doesn't change my response. An added moon can be just as pleasing as one that was there on its own, and an added moon can also be as disappointing as one that was there on its own but not captured or composed well.

Most of my composites are fantasticals that clearly have extra elements or textures involved. But -I have dragged a dam bird or two from the edge of a frame to a more compositionally effective location, or got rid of a bird that seems like one too many. Those images will be on display alongside the ones who're close to SOOC. As will the ones I shot with odd artsy camera settings that weren't meant to generate a documentary image. I don't feel a bit guilty about this, and would be honest with anyone who wanted to discuss it but I won't be pointing these things out. I've made it clear that this is a fine art display, not a documentary display. Would I have swiped an egret from an Audubon photo and slapped him into the dam? No, not in a million years. They are all my photos, my dam birds, my computer, my work. But I understand that there are some people who would rail at me sliding that heron down the pier, or obliterating that egret who was in an unfortunate position. I guess we each have to work these things out for ourselves.
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Post by Duck » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:52 am

minniev wrote:On Disclosure: [...] I've made it clear that this is a fine art display, not a documentary display. [...]

This touches on one of the fundamental issues regarding the ethics of photo manipulation, perceived intent. If the viewer feels they have been misled, regardless whether the artist did so intentionally or not, they will react negatively towards the image. If the viewer understands the deception is on purpose (it was stated or obvious) for the entertainment of the viewer, then it becomes a completely different and less hostile reaction. I think the truest reception of an image from a viewer is if the manipulation is done to seamlessly enhance it without the knowledge of the viewer. I feel it allows the viewer to experience the visual and emotional aspects of an image in a purer, unbiased manner basing their like or dislike on other aspect of the image (composition, subject, lighting, etc).
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Post by rmalarz » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:31 pm

Piet, i have a photo that I took of Abraham LIncoln giving a speech. I'll post it if you'd like. It's filed away with a lot of negatives and would take a day or so to find.
--Bob
PietFrancke wrote:and of course, no matter what, there are always lines that should not be crossed. The message being sent... is acceptable or it is not. For example, a year 1500 painting of Judas rising to heaven would not have been acceptable. So anyway, I am just pointing out that the key aspect is not necessarily depiction of reality vs fantasy, but rather What is being said that determines if something is acceptable or not.
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Post by PietFrancke » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:55 pm

rmalarz wrote:Piet, i have a photo that I took of Abraham LIncoln giving a speech. I'll post it if you'd like. It's filed away with a lot of negatives and would take a day or so to find.
--Bob
PietFrancke wrote:and of course, no matter what, there are always lines that should not be crossed. The message being sent... is acceptable or it is not. For example, a year 1500 painting of Judas rising to heaven would not have been acceptable. So anyway, I am just pointing out that the key aspect is not necessarily depiction of reality vs fantasy, but rather What is being said that determines if something is acceptable or not.


LOL - you are older than dirt! - I know from your Avatar. That would be awesome to see... Since it is a negative instead of digital, we will know for sure that it is real! Could you imagine what an newly found negative of Lincoln would be worth?

Duck - I really like your point about "perceived intent" . That has got to be zero ground for defining our most primitive way of measuring each other. If someone is laughing, are they laughing WITH us or are they laughing AT us. Our idea of what the intent was (which is as subjective as heck) makes the world of difference regarding whether we are dealing with Friend or Foe.

It would be interesting to come up with a long list of words that defines the "line" of intent and has those words properly ordered.

Truth, Honest (Abe), Helpful, support, Interesting, advertising, spam, fib, lie, deceit, hurtful, false -- some of the words are clear and objective (like truth/false). Some of the words have much to do with the presenters Intent.

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Post by PietFrancke » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:01 pm

minniev wrote:On Disclosure:

I have never had any particular concerns about how another photographer/artist constructed their images. If I like it, I like it, and if I don't, I don't. I can even appreciate many images that I don't like. But how they were put together doesn't change my response. An added moon can be just as pleasing as one that was there on its own, and an added moon can also be as disappointing as one that was there on its own but not captured or composed well.

Most of my composites are fantasticals that clearly have extra elements or textures involved. But -I have dragged a dam bird or two from the edge of a frame to a more compositionally effective location, or got rid of a bird that seems like one too many. Those images will be on display alongside the ones who're close to SOOC. As will the ones I shot with odd artsy camera settings that weren't meant to generate a documentary image. I don't feel a bit guilty about this, and would be honest with anyone who wanted to discuss it but I won't be pointing these things out. I've made it clear that this is a fine art display, not a documentary display. Would I have swiped an egret from an Audubon photo and slapped him into the dam? No, not in a million years. They are all my photos, my dam birds, my computer, my work. But I understand that there are some people who would rail at me sliding that heron down the pier, or obliterating that egret who was in an unfortunate position. I guess we each have to work these things out for ourselves.


When our images are displayed, there is a "context" in the where and the how of the display. I also feel no need to disclose, and as defined by the context, I am Honest.

edit - sometimes a woman who wishes to look a certain way (beautiful?) applies makeup. Sometimes a landscape that wishes to be beautiful gets a power line removed. If the story is about beauty, makeup is fine. At what point does makeup become deceit?

Consider a dating site... A nice photo well edited showing someone as "attractive", or an untouched snapshot of the same person that was taken twenty years ago. Both photos deceive, but one type of deceit is more acceptable than the other.

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Post by Duck » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:35 pm

PietFrancke wrote:It would be interesting to come up with a long list of words that defines the "line" of intent and has those words properly ordered.

Interesting, sure, but impractical as we are talking about a visual language rather than spoken labels. As I mentioned earlier, once labels are applied to an image I feel it takes something away from our interpretation of that image.

Take, for example, Uelsmann's originally posted "Journey into Night" image. The lie is clearly evident in the fact that we all inherently understand arms don't grow from tree roots. Therefore any intelligent person would understand that the image is not based on reality but is saying something allegorically. A knowledgeable person versed in symbolism would understand the allegory of the image (or at least their interpretation of such).

Had this image been accompanied by an artist statement saying he was influenced by the birth of his son/daughter, that would have narrowed my own interpretation of the image as being representative of the circle of life.

Then there is the context under which the labels are used. One can argue there is a real truth to the image in relation to the label of "nurture" in the context of examining the meaning of the image, but in regard to physical truth... it's not there.
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Post by PietFrancke » Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:25 pm

Duck wrote:
PietFrancke wrote:It would be interesting to come up with a long list of words that defines the "line" of intent and has those words properly ordered.

Interesting, sure, but impractical as we are talking about a visual language rather than spoken labels. As I mentioned earlier, once labels are applied to an image I feel it takes something away from our interpretation of that image.......


Words that describe the intent of the artist, not words that describe the art. Perhaps they could even be used to describe the artist. If perceived intent is the major key then what we are describing is "what is the artist telling me", rather than "what is the art telling me"... If words are placed on a line, names can be placed on a line also. On most lines, Honest Abe would fall closer to the Honest side than presidents we have had recently (and I do not know if Abe was really honest). We sometimes pretend that art stands on it's own, but in fact we care about who the artist is - and whether he is legendary.

Most would not describe Picasso as a "realist", but that aside, the artists reputation becomes part of (perhaps the largest part of) the art's value. Art as a communication is measured in part by who is speaking. And while the message/words might be a constant, they are even measured differently depending on the age the words are heard. For instance, Lincoln is much more highly thought of today than he was during his own age.

So anyway, I apologize for the excessive rambling, but the thought struck me just now that the part of the impact comes from the art itself - it is unchanging. Part of the impact/value comes from the artists reputation - "this is a Picasso". And part of the impact comes from a relevance or meaningfulness to the person viewing the art - fashions change, and people change.

Today's rules differ from yesterdays. And tomorrows rules most assuredly will also be different or at least not easily predicted.

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